To understand conventions of thrillers.
To adopt genre conventions into my own work.
• What are the conventions of thriller films?
• What is the aim of a thriller?
• What films would you label as ‘thrillers’? Why?
The aim of a thriller
• To create suspense, tension and excitement for the
• Thrillers create high levels of
anticipation, surprise, uncertainty, heightened
expectation, and terror.
• Thriller films tend to be adrenaline rushing.
What makes a thriller a thriller?
• Conventional characters: Hero & Villain – where the
hero is often an outsider, isolated & secretive.
• Narrative revolves around a puzzle or investigation.
• It keeps the audience at the edge of their seats as
the plot builds to a climax. Plot twists and cliff-
hangers are used a lot.
• Violence & crime are central to most thrillers.
• Sometimes the villain’s identity is kept secret until
the very end of the film.
• Tension is needed so the audience is focused and
interested and wants to follow the film’s plot.
Music / sound
• Sound / Music is an important element in a thriller
film. The type of sound / music gives the thriller
genre more meaning.
• Non-diagetic music / sounds that play in the
background make up the atmosphere of the scene.
• Some thrillers use the silence technique which
builds up tension.
• In most thriller films there is the ‘calm before the
storm’. This build tension up to a focal event which
means something bad is going to happen.
E.G: The music starts slow and calm and the movement of the characters is also slow.
As the movement gets faster the tempo builds up and speeds up to the
tension, matching the action in the scene. Thus making it dramatic.
• Watch the opening scene of Jaws – paying close
attention to the use of diagetic and non-diagetic
• Low-key lighting is most likely to be used in a
• The use of shadows through lighting is a convention
of thriller films.
• Sometimes shadows represent evil and darkness
• Shadows create an eerie atmosphere.
The Sixth Sense
• Watch the opening sequence of The Sixth Sense –
what do you notice about the use of lighting and
Camera angles / movements
• Some camera movements also make the audience
feel tense and helps them to feel like they are
actually in the film.
• A camera movement often used is tracking. This is a
fast paced camera movement (dolly shot). Camera
movements like this excite the audience.
• Close ups and extreme close ups are often used in
thrillers. These shot sizes show the character’s facial
• Watch this opening scene of Vertigo – how does
Hitchcock use camera movements and shots to
make the audience feel part of the film?
Reflection / Mirrors
• Mirrors are a convention of thriller films as the
represent the reflection of someone’s soul. This
tends to make the audience feel uneasy and creates
a claustrophobic feeling.
• Mirrors can also represent darkness and evil in a
• Watch this trailer for the film Mirrors – how does it
draw on the representation of mirrors in thriller
• Flashbacks are used in Thriller films to create a
feeling of time disorientation, which can create
confusion among the audience.
• Flashbacks are sometimes used in an important
scene in a thriller as they give the audience insight
about the character’s past.
• A Thriller film which uses this convention a lot is
• Watch this sequence – which includes a flashback
scene – how is the flashback introduced to the
• Quick cuts and camera angle changes help to create
a stronger sense of confusion among the audience
and heighten tension.
• As you have already seen with Mrs Ackerman in